Tag Archives: Jacques Demy

XL Popcorn – The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 741/1007Title: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)
Director: Jacques Demy
Year: 1964
Country: France

And so I have now completed Jacques Demy’s loose romantic trilogy with the most acclaimed of the bunch… that is also technically the middle film. This is not a typical trilogy as there is no continuing story line, just recurring cast members and an overall similar feel. The one thread of continuity is the reappearance of the character of Roland Cassard from Lola, but that’s in the same ballpark as Jacques Tati playing Monsieur Hulot in a number of his films.

Where the final film in the trilogy was a traditional musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is more like an opera in that literally every piece of dialogue is sung. There’s a nice signposting of this in the beginning of the film with the two leads going to see Carmen on a date. The whole ‘singing everything in a film’ is a bit unnerving when you aren’t ready for it, but once I got into it I was SO in.

When you watch a film like this you cannot help but wonder how people can be so attractive. Not only is Guy (played by Nino Castelnuovo) an absolute stud-muffin, but then you have Catherine Deneuve. Then there is Catherine Deneuve. Not only is she absolutely stunning to look at (even if the line about her not wearing make-up is absolute crap), but she shows so much of her range as an actress in these 90 minutes. It’s little wonder that this is the film that launched her career outside of France.

The film itself really does flash by in an instant and by the time it ends you have been through a lot of emotions and seen a lot of choices. The ending itself really reminded me of how they ended La La Land – which makes sense as both films (and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) share a lot stylistically.

Now, since this is a Jacques Demy musical with Catherine Deneuve as the star, it’s difficult to not make points of comparison between this and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. They are both excellent films and true exemplars of the musical genre, but I think there are some places where they outperform each other.

For example, since every word is sung, I feel like there isn’t a single song in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg that can outdo ‘Chanson des Jumelles’ in terms of catchiness. Similarly there are no big song or dance sequences, which is something that I did miss considering all the visuals that could have been done using the props from the umbrella shop. On the other hand, the story line in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a better one and visually the use of the highly saturated colours works so well, and maybe a bit better than Les Demoiselles de Rochefort’s pastels.

Films like this and An Autumn Afternoon have really made me feel glad that I’ve decided to focus on the 1960s and 1970s for a bit. It’s helping me to re-evaluate these decades for the better… I just hope this feeling of goodwill won’t be premature.

XL Popcorn – Lola

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 649/1007
Title: Lola
Director: Jacques Demy
Year: 1961
Country: France

Feels like I’ve been on a bit of a role lately with films. I guess that’s what feeling sick gets you, time to catch up on your movies and napping. Lola ended up being the last of these films in what appears to be a tradition with me and the films of Jacques Demy. Guess that means I’ll be waiting until my next bout of sickness before watching his best known work: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

If I had to some up my experience of Lola in one word it would be: vague. The world of Lola seems to exist in a vague town build for thousands, but only houses about 20. At least that’s the only way you can explain away the way that every character seems to meet and interact as if by chance. This isn’t a criticism, but the whole thing made me think of this as being a classy French soap opera from the 1960s crossed with Groundhog Day (because the whole feeling of pre-destination).

This is not a criticism, but it just speaks for the fact that if you are looking for a film with a lot of substance… then Lola may not be it. If, however, you are looking for a light and well done piece of fluffy cinema (and you’re not too sick that subtitles are out of the question) then this might be the film for you.

It scratched my itch today because of the well written dialogue and the fact that I didn’t need to concentrate too much on what was happening. It was also cool to see Marc Michel (who I previously saw in Le Trou) in another movie, even if I was glad that he didn’t get the girl in the end.

 

XL Popcorn – Jezebel / The Young Girls of Rochefort

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”Title: Jezebel
Director: William Wyler
Year: 1938
Country: USA

After two and a bit years I have finally gotten around to watching Jezebel. I do not know why it has taken me so long, but my best guess is that I wanted to make sure that I didn’t use up all of the female lead films of the 1930s and 40s.

Anyway, here we are at last watching Bette Davis in the role many have described as her best. It is definitely an amazing turn by her and yet I still think that she was at her best in All About Eve. Then again maybe that’s because All About Eve is one of my favourite films the 1950s and she gets a far better supporting cast than in Jezebel.

I think of this film has a best picture nominee from 1938 and compare it to some of the best picture nominees from recent years. With the exception of Brooklyn from this year there has been a real absence in the female lead pictures getting Oscar recognition. Watching Bette Davis absolutely kill it as Julie just makes me angry to think that we’re not making films like this anymore.

Obviously I did not mean films that tread so lightly on the topics of slavery, but films where there are strong women as title characters that are allowed to steal the show. Sure we still have the likes of Carol, Frances Ha, Still Alice and… now I’m finding it difficult. Maybe Gravity should be included as well. Still, what has happened?

Maybe Jezebel is not the best film to bring this up. I guess because this film shows the name with the website Jezebel it subliminally came to the forefront of my mind. What can I say though, I love a good women’s film from this era of cinema. It makes me want to dig out my copy of Mildred Pierce and make it a double bill.

If you are fond of antebellum or women’s films then Jezebel is definitely a film to add to your wishlist. Hell, if you want to see a fantastic acting performance then this is a must see.

rochefortTitle: The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort)
Director: Jacques Demy
Year: 1967
Country: France

To be honest, doing the write up for Jezebel kinda bummed me out. So instead of watching my original choice I went for something a bit more upbeat.

Now I do not think that I have ever seen a musical in a foreign language (that time I went to the opera doesn’t count). It’s one of those film genres that I would more readily associate with Hollywood and, therefore, the English language. Turns out that other than Bollywood films there are two French musicals on the list. Both of them are by Jacques Demy, which means that The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the other one.

I went into this with a fairly closed mind. I expected that after half an hour of this film I would start to zone out. Nothing against the idea of a French musical it is just that I’ve seen a lot of bad musicals (because when you tell people about musicals you like they take it to mean you will like any musical). I’m happy to say that The Young Girls of Rochefort defied my expectation. I adored it.

The thing that really stood out for me was the visuals. It was as if Jacques Demy took a French town, painted it with pastels and ran it through a jukebox. In terms of looks it felt like 1960s France should feel on a sunny day. I’m probably not making much sense, but there you are.

I know from reading around that this is not the strongest musical from this director. That in terms of songs it is a weaker than The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Therefore I now have very inflated expectations for the other film.

The best song is probably the twin song, which is the first song you hear and is a recurring motif throughout the first half. Not only is it catchy with clever lyrics (thanks a lot to the translators of this who managed to keep the rhyming intact whilst preserving as much meaning as possible) but it also soars thanks to the amazing chemistry of real life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac.

This film is such a love letter to the old Hollywood musicals that any moment you do feel that it would sail away on its own ocean of cliché. Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac make sure that this does not happen. Their characters are confident and so self aware that they prevent this film from feeling flighty. It is also a joy to see Gene Kelly pop in and kill his dance numbers.

One thing that we tend to love about musicals is they mostly have happy endings. I know this despite the fact that Dancer and the Dark and Moulin Rouge! feature in my favourite films list. However I still managed to feel myself rooting for the romantic pairings in this film. It was a film of just pure joy that it could not end any other way, could it?

I know I’m gonna have trouble getting some of the songs out of my head in the next day or so.

Progress: 534/1007